Brown's strength is that he is not a predictable liberal. Alas, that's because his positions can be fickle and self-serving. As party chairman, he set a record in non-election year fundraising in 1989; by 1992, he was a money virgin who wanted to limit campaign contributions to $100.
As Stern also noted, the general election against Whitman could be a complete toss-up: "We don't know what kind of campaigner she'll be. We don't know what kind of a campaigner he'll be."
Democratic campaign consultant Garry South, who worked on San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's now-defunct gubernatorial bid, doesn't think the lack of a primary is good for his party. "All you have to do is go back to 1998, when the Republicans thought they were so clever when they cleared the way for (then-AG) Dan Lungren. We know what happened. Gray Davis came out of that primary campaign disciplined, and we were ready to go. Lungren ran a completely disorganized, undisciplined, message-less campaign."
Without a Demo ex machina, Brown will be the party's nominee. Maybe Brown will stand out as a uniquely unmanageable individual. Or maybe he'll stand out like a 5-pound cell phone.